|2010 Season Preview: Tampa Bay Rays||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on March 23, 2010
2009 Regular Season Record: 84-78
Rays of Hope:
1B - Dan Johnson* (Free Agent played in Japan last season)
RHP - Joaquin Benoit* (Free Agent from Rangers)
RHP - Mike Ekstrom (Waiver claim from Padres)
RHP - Rafael Soriano (Trade with Braves)
*Signed minor league contract.Strengths:Â Dynamic Offense, good core of starting pitching, solid bullpen
It's hardly a sure thing, but the Rays should find themselves doing a lot better than they did last year when the team was slammed with a bad early season schedule, injuries and failure of Carlos Pena or Pat Burrell to live up to potential.Â The offense is strong, fast and has seven players capable of hitting 25 or more home runs and that matches up well with any offense in the big leagues.
The Rays rotation is one built with a long term view and it has more potential than probably any other rotation anywhere in the game today -- and none of them have come close to reaching their potential.Â Matt Garza and James Shields have seemed close before and either could take the step up to ace caliber while there isn't a team who wouldn't like to have even one of the Rays other starters somewhere in their organization.Â Think Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz kind of talent, or so the Rays believe.
The bullpen is solid too.Â While it doesn't have the big names, or get the hype that pens in larger markets do, the arms are good.Â J.P Howell will prove to be a solid set up man for Rafael Soriano, while Grant Balfour, Lance Cormier, Randy Choate and Dan Howell should be able to handle the earlier innings fairly well.Â Andy Sonnanstine will likely work as the long man and spot starter unless he gets traded, as has been rumored.Â If their past performance is any indication it should be one of the strongest pens in the east.
Weaknesses: Uncertainty about production from Pena and Burrell, starting pitcher inexperience.
Another key player who clearly was a flop last season was DH Pat Burrell (.221-14-64-45) who massively failed to live up to the expectation the Rays had when they signed him to a two-year deal before last season.Â At 34 Burrell should still have more to offer and he seems to have come into camp ready to play, but after last season just what contribution he'll make is unknown.
Aside from James Shields and Matt Garza, the projected rotation has a grand total of 62 Major League starts under their belt.Â While Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and David Price look like some of the very best young pitching talents in the game, they are very inexperienced and raw and will be thrown into the grinder against the offenses of the Yankees and Red Sox.Â If they stand up to the pressure the Rays could cruise to a division title, but if they struggle too much things could get ugly.
One question that need answering: